COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE – Since the passing of its founder Kam Shui-fai in 2004, the power struggle and family feud at famed Central eatery Yung Kee has rivalled Shakespeare in scope. Older son Kinsen Kam Kwan-sing ran the restaurant, famous for its roast goose, but behind the scenes, disputes lingered with his younger brother Ronald Kam Kwan-lai.
When Kinsen died in 2010, the third generation entered the fray. Ronald and his sons now run Yung Kee, while Kinsen’s heirs and some of the kitchen team defected to start a new spin-off franchise of the family business. The humble little BBQ stand, Kam’s Roast Goose, which opened on Hennessey Road this summer, is a stark contrast to the palatial multi-floor spread that is Yung Kee on Wellington Street.
Kam’s Roast Goose Exterior
The focus here, as the not-too-subtle name suggests, is on its reputation on roast meats. But there are other classic and popular dishes on the menu, such as stewed offerings in lo shiu sauce and basic Cantonese snacks on noodles or rice.
But there’s little doubt what the main draw is. It’s almost expected that everyone will order the famous roast goose. The item put Yung Kee’s name on the culinary map, and the endless queues at Kam’s Roast Goose are here to see if the renowned meat compares to the classic Central outlet.
We made the mistake of not specifying that we wanted a goose leg, so my bowl of ho fun (rice noodles) was topped with goose breast meat (HKD48). In general, locals prefer the leg for its juicier and more flavourful dark meat.
Luckily, my soup helped keep the white meat relatively moist. I was also fortunate to have a lot of strips of tasty skin, which were succulent and not as fatty as I expected. But after a few pieces, the drier breast meat did become tiresome, although a dip into the sweet plum sauce helped.
Goose and Pork on Rice
The other BBQ meats were markedly delectable. A combo rice plate of goose and roast suckling pig (HKD68) came with a generous portion of breast meat as well as some sensational pork crackling. The texture was wonderful, certainly better than most small BBQ stands.
Another signature is the preserved egg, which costs HKD10 for a half-portion. The small plate comes with several pieces of pickled ginger. The ginger is sweeter than the Japanese version served with sushi, and perfect with the pungent homemade preserved egg.
Yung Kee’s famous alkaline eggs have a melted gooey centre, and Kam’s small dish is no different. There was a slightly golden metallic taste in the the fermented yoke, but the smell was not too overpowering. The whites had completely jellied into a translucent green. Many Westerners do find this a challenging dish, but I love it.
After an additional order of blanched choi sum vegetables with a small drizzle of soy sauce (HKD28), we rounded out the quick bite with some marinated jellyfish and cold slices of beef flank (HKD55). The jellyfish was appropriately crunchy, while the beef flank, bathed in a mellow lo shiu sauce, enhanced the beef flavour rather than drowned it in saltiness.
If Yung Kee sometimes feels like an over-glorified tourist trap, Kam’s is a nice contrast as the epitome of local fast food. The tables are crammed, the lines are long, and the waiters, even if they don’t say anything clearly, expect you to clear out and return your table as soon as you’ve scoffed down your meal. If you want to eat slow and luxuriously, buy a goose for takeout, which is what many customers seem to do to avoid the queue.
Marinated Jellyfish and Beef Flank
The big question is: does this new establishment measure up in terms of quality to the Yung Kee standard? Well, I always felt the goose in Yung Kee was a little overrated, as there are places in Sham Tsang where the roast meat is every bit as good, if not better.
Even in Wan Chai, there are cheaper stalls where you can find quality Chinese BBQ, but you’ll likely be sitting on a plastic stool without air-con.
Kam’s Roast Goose certainly holds its own in taste and quality, but you are also paying a small premium for the privilege of enjoying a Hong Kong brand name’s legacy.
Kam’s Roast Goose, G/F Po Wah commercial Center, 226 Hennessey Road, Wan Chai, Tel. (+852) 2520-1110.